Reflections on Fear

Fear of failure. Fear of embarrassment. Fear of being vulnerable. Fear of success. Fear of responsibility. Fear of action. Fear of passivity. Fear of being let down. Fear of getting hurt. Fear of emotional pain. Fear of physical pain. Fear of being yourself. Fear of reputation. Fear of expectations.

Fear of … fear of … fear of …

Fear has many faces and everyone is afraid of something. Some fears are rational, others are irrational, many are debilitating, some are paralyzing and yet, all can be conquered, if you wish it so.

Fears are often based upon action. When we wish for a certain outcome to take place and so, we start to make plans of how we can turn that wish into reality but then, our minds automatically begin to think of scenarios where our actions will lead to a different event, a painful, embarrassing event, where failure can occur and hence, fear builds upon successive thoughts and we find ourselves at the mercy of fear. Unwilling to act because we are afraid of a possibility that may occur.

Should I still act? Or should I do something else?

She’s going to say no, so let’s do something else. Don’t bother, you won’t get the promotion, let’s go a different way. You’ll never be able to do that, it’ll be a waste of time.

In order to deal with such fears we often lower our gaze, set our sights to something smaller, something manageable which we can achieve with little risk and so, we settle due to fear.

Pain is another cause of fear. Most people don’t like to get hurt. They rather avoid pain, whether it is physical or psychological. We rather be comfortable and repeat pleasurable actions which have a small chance of hurting us. This is why when we think of taking action that will cause us to be uncomfortable and go beyond our perceived limitations, fear begins to kick in.

A marathon would be good to run but think of the last time you tried to run and the pain it caused your feet. To create a piece of art would be fulfilling but think about the pain of rejection. It’d be good to join a group but think about the awkwardness that could take place.

Once more, we bow to fear and do not attempt something great, something meaningful and we mistake our timid actions for actions but in reality, you are still living passively, not living life as it is meant to be lived for you allow fear to manipulate your wants and needs.

What to do then? What to do when you are afraid?

The answer is simple.

Act anyway.

Fear is imprisoning. If you allow it to dictate your life, your emotions, your actions then you will never be free. You will remain a mass of unfulfilled potential, inexperienced being, alive and yet not living.

We have to understand what Frank Herbert understood about fear. In his classic novel, Dune, Frank Herbert uses the analogy of death when he speaks of fear. When you allow fear to manage your actions, you have just experienced a little death and as time goes on and you make more decisions due to fear, you experience more little deaths and eventually, obliteration.

I must not fear. Fear is the mind-killer. Fear is the little-death that brings total obliteration. I will face my fear. I will permit it to pass over me and through me. And when it has gone past I will turn the inner eye to see its path. Where the fear has gone there will be nothing. Only I will remain.

Fear lives in the future. Where something could happen. Or it may not. What you fear may come true or it could not. Perhaps if you still act in the face of fear, you’ll realize that even in failure, your perceived trauma greatly outweighed the real consequences. Understand that pain is temporary, that the discomfort will go away but the accomplishment of acting even though you were afraid will stick around, you will look back and think of what you achieved rather than the pain you felt.

That painful moment, that fearful moment becomes a fond memory. It can turn into a catalyst of the simple and powerful thought “what else can I do?”.

An additional thought begins to occur “What else am I afraid of?”.

When you act regardless of fear you begin to make changes in your habits, in the way you think, in your character. You stop your life from being led by something else and you begin to lead your own life.

Through fear you get freedom, otherwise, it’s obliteration.

What It Means To Be A Pro

The amateur and professional labels are often used to describe an individual and his/her work. We usually attach the term amateur to someone who may be classified as a hobbyist in their given craft. Such as an individual who plays organized basketball at their local YMCA. While a pro would be someone who plays basketball for a living. And so, perhaps the difference between an amateur and a professional could be explained with a paycheque. Or maybe it is how one dresses compared to the other. Or, how much success one has had in their respective field. Maybe even the kind of people you spend time with can help explain who is an amateur and who is a professional.

However, all of these explanations are based on the external aspect of life, on extrinsic criteria. For Steven Pressfield, the difference between an amateur and a professional is internal. The difference lies in the habits. In his book, Turning Pro: Tap Your Inner Power and Create Your Life’s Work, Pressfield stresses the importance of becoming a pro, as he says:

What ails you and me has nothing to do with being sick or being wrong. What ails us is that we are living our lives as amateurs. So, the solution is to turn pro.

Turning pro comes with a sacrifice. In order to become a professional, we must sacrifice comfort, along with the self we identify with because these things are associated with being an amateur.

An amateur clings to comfort, fearing the uncomfortable, the unknown and so, he/she never grows. And in the realm of comfort, the amateur constantly seeks instant gratification, unable to put off pleasure for some future gain. Hence, becoming an obstacle to themselves, stunting their own growth.

Another sign of an amateur is procrastination. Someone who has millions of ideas which they will start tomorrow and as they procrastinate, they daydream, thinking of the past or some hopeful future, waiting, wasting their precision time and not using their present.

The pro, on the other hand, is straightforward in his/her aim and is willing to act towards it.

Pro plans his day to accomplish his aim. Amateur wastes his day in distractions and drama.

However, just because you act like a pro for one day does not mean that you are a pro. This is related to Pressfield’s concept of Resistance. In short, each day is a battle against our inner resistance, which tells you to act and embrace the amateur in you and each day we must recommit to being a pro.

What does it mean to be a pro?

The following are some key qualities as pro possess:

A pro shows up every day.

If committed for the long haul.

Gives his complete focus to his work.

Acts in the face of fear.

Accepts no excuses.

Doesn’t complain about circumstances.

Dedicates himself to mastering technique.

Is courageous in confronting one’s own doubts and demons.

Is not distracted (amateur tweets, pro works)

Holds himself to a higher standard.

Able to defer gratification.

Doesn’t wait for inspiration.

Gets a psychological reward through his work.

The pro works on habits of order, regularity, discipline and constant strive for excellence.

It is through a conscious effort that one becomes a pro. The good news is that anyone can achieve this status because we have control over our attitudes and behaviors through which we can mold our habits. The bad news is that it requires one to be uncomfortable and to sacrifice that easy path that is associated with amateurism.

The choice is clear but it resides in you and whether or not you are willing to go through with it, every day.

Reflections On Mastery Through Resistance Practice

Recently I read Robert Greene’s book, Mastery. The book puts forth the argument that everyone can master a skill which they love if you follow the outline that has been present throughout history. Greene draws from famous figures and links them to his principles and steps in order to showcase that no matter the discipline, whether it be sciences or art or sports, the underlying facts are the same. Simply put, in order to become a master at your craft, one needs to practice, with intent and focus, for hours on end coupled with discipline, self-control, and emotional stability.

Hence, there are no magic tricks. No short cuts. No Genie granting your wishes.

The reality is that in order to mastery something it will take years if not decades to get good at so you have to be in it for the long haul.

Now in the book, there are many different practices and principles one needs to understand in order to fully grasp the idea Greene has put forth. However, I will just be concentrating on one particular practice.

Robert Greene refers to it as Resistance practice. I previously discussed Steven Pressfield‘s notion of Resistance and Greene’s beliefs are similar to Pressfield. In whatever you do, there will be resistance, whether that comes in the form of external obstacles or whether it manifests itself through self-doubt or other psychological barriers. Knowing this, one must essentially strengthen their will and focus towards resistance through practice.

So, instead of waiting for some barrier or obstacle to come your way and then seeing if you can withstand it, you must create your own. That is just one part of it, the other being the constant practice of actually overcoming those barriers or obstacles. In this way, you build up your ability to combat resistance which allows you to achieve a higher level of proficiency in your craft.

An example of resistance practice would be to give yourself deadlines. Such self-imposed difficulty was what the great poet John Keats often practiced as Robert Greene mentioned in his book. Keats would give himself goals to write 50 lines each day and would commit to finishing long poems, up to 4,000 words, within 7  months. Through such deadlines, he would have to force himself to overcome laziness and self-doubt, to become more time efficient, to be more disciplined and essentially, to improve his character in order to meet his demands.

And so, we need to change our mindset when it comes to resistance.

Resistance is an ally. We need it to get to the next level in our craft. The lack of resistance or the lack of intensity allows us to remain comfortable and safe. Growth comes when you are uncomfortable. Resistance is uncomfortable which is why we must practice it in order to grow. The pressure of resistance aids us in creating what we dream of, making that dream a reality.

Understanding Camus’ Meursault

In Psychology, there is believed to be six main personality traits. There is Honesty/Humility (truthful or honest vs hypocritical or sly), Emotionality (anxious vs calm), eXtraversion (outgoing vs shy), Agreeableness (compromising or cooperative vs revengeful or stubborn), Conscientiousness (disciplined vs disorganized) and Openness to experience (creative vs conventional). These are the very basics of the model and of personality studies. For a deeper understanding of the model click here. In reality, personality is very complex and difficult to box into six categories. However, these six traits otherwise known as the HEXACO personality structure seem to be the most common universal traits. Hence, using these categories, one can come to better understand another person, even if that person is fictional as is with the case of Meursault.

Meursault is the main character of Albert Camus’ novel, The Stranger. Camus is famous for his absurdist philosophy which puts forth the notion that we, as people, are constantly yearning for a purpose and meaning, however, life is meaningless, hence the pursuit being absurd. Eventually, one must understand this absurdity and come to terms with it and create your own meaning that can justify your suffering and work. Meursault is a character who embodies Camus’ philosophy as he is completely detached from normal social norms of everyday life because he finds no value in them. This character, who does not value anything, does not care about anything, does not judge anything and is often emotionless in situations that almost demand an outpour of emotions, comes to be one of the most intriguing characters ever written. Hence why the HEXACO model is used to study him, in order to better understand the character. 

Meursault would be described as a character with a high level of honesty/humility. The reason being, Meursault values very little in life and by behaving so, he never masks his thoughts or feelings. Hence, he often says things that may seem socially off putting but are his true feelings. His response to Marie’s marriage proposition is an example of this. Furthermore, the novel stars with the news of the death of Meursault’s mother and instead of reacting like how society would expect a son to react, Meursault reacts with a lack of emotions, for that is who he is. He does not try to manipulate people by falsifying his emotions and neither is he interested in receiving special treatment during this time. Additionally, once Meursault has been imprisoned for committing a murder and during the trial, the attorney asks Meursault many times to share his feelings and emotions which he felt during the incident so that the attorney could present to the jury an emotionally unstable individual and so that he could receive a lesser punishment. However, Meursault denies such vulnerable feelings and constantly informs the attorney that he was aware of what he was doing when he pulled the trigger.

As for the extraversion trait, Meursault would rank somewhere in the middle, neither too high nor too low. The reason being that although Meursault is a detached individual who likes to spend a lot of time alone, at home, reflecting on his inner state and the state of the people around him, however, he does not mind conversing with his neighbours and listening to their problems and giving his own input if asked. Additionally, Meursault willing goes out to the beach or goes swimming where he interacts with new people and even meets a woman, Marie, with whom he starts a relationship with.

Meursault would rank very low in emotionality. Meursault is extremely detached from societal norms and expectation. He does not feel sorrow when his mother passes. He does not protest his neighbour Raymond’s plan to beat his girlfriend for cheating on him. He does not offer support to his other neighbour whose dog had ran away. Even at the prospect of marriage to Marie, his attitude is one of detachment for he says that he would have married anyone who spent as much time with him as Marie had. Lastly, he does not feel remorse for killing someone at the climax of the novel.

In the agreeableness trait, Meursault would rank on a higher level mainly due to his willingness to compromise and cooperate with others. However, such willingness is not due to his desire to be with others but rather because he simply does not care enough to argue and fight. Hence, Meursault then ends up writing a letter to Raymond’s girlfriend, informing her that Raymond would like to meet and talk to her. He does so at Raymond’s request even though he knows that Raymond has ill intentions and most likely will cause harm to her. It is his lack of care that makes him go along with other people. 

The conscientiousness trait is one of the more difficult traits to judge when it comes to Meursault. The reason being that he does not care about anything. So, there would be a belief that he is low in conscientiousness because nothing in the text suggests that he would be an individual who is constantly challenging himself, setting new goals, working harder than expected. Rather, he would most likely be an individual who meets the work load expected of him and that is it. He describes his flat to be messy which could also indicate low conscientiousness. Overall, Meursault would most likely be at the lower level of this trait.

Openness to experience is another trait that is difficult to measure with Meursault. On one hand, Meursault never speaks about art or beauty or anything related to the creative fields. However, he is imaginative and he does have unusual ideas and is willing to explore what is known as absurdist thought or philosophy. In doing so, one could argue that Meursault is above average in openness to experience for he is willing to explore unusual thought patterns and behaviours. In fact, once he has been sentenced to death, Meursault reflects upon the absurdity of life and how nothing matters, he finds relief in such thought and makes it easier for him to accept his death. This could indicate somewhat higher levels of openness to experience.

Consequences of Conformity, Compliance & Obedience

Understanding human behavior is a complicated venture. Additionally, behavior can be impacted by social roles because social roles bring a degree of expectation to human interaction (Weiten & McCann, 2013, p. 768). These roles and expectations can result in conformity, obedience and/or compliance. This paper explores the question: how has research on conformity, compliance, and obedience informed us about these factors in real-world situations. The paper tackles each phenomenon separately, showing the effects of each respective behavior and their consequences. The conclusion expands on the importance of understanding such behavior and its real-world consequences.

Compliance

Compliance can either be explicit or an implicit request. One way this can be achieved is by manipulating individuals feelings (Ciladin & Goldstein, 2004, p. 592). As Whatley et al. (1999) demonstrated in their experiment feelings of shame and fear could result in public compliance while the feeling of guilt and pity can equate to private compliance (as cited in Ciladin & Goldstein, p. 593).

Additionally, there are several techniques that can lead to compliance in the real world. One is thats-not-all technique. The target is presented with an initial request, which is followed by a deal that sweetens the initial request, complying to which can result in additional benefits for the target (Ciladin & Goldstein, p. 594).

Another is the foot-in-the-door technique. This is when a salesperson gets an individual to agree to a small request and once this agreement has been made, the salesperson introduces a larger request (Weiten & McCann, 2013, p. 787). Lastly, lowball technique relies on a commitment from the target and then, hidden costs are revealed and by that point, the target is already committed (Weiten & McCann, p. 787).

The last two sales techniques rely on individuals self-concept. People have a strong need to enhance their self-concepts by behaving consistently with their actions, commitments, and beliefs (Ciladin & Goldstein, 2004 p. 602). However, individuals whose cultures place less emphasis on self-concept positivity and related maintenance may be less susceptible to tactics that exploit these motivations (Ciladin & Goldstein, p. 605).

Conformity

Conformity could be seen as the act of changing one’s behavior to match another (Ciladian & Goldstein, p. 606). There can be an informational conformity motivation where the individual desires to form an accurate interpretation of reality. Also, normative conformity motivations where the goal of obtaining social approval from others is the reason for conforming (Ciladian & Goldstein, p. 606).

Another view on conformity is the dynamic social impact theory. The likelihood of conformity increases if the group is less diverse and when there is a correlation of attitudes within the group members (Ciladian & Goldstein, p. 608). The similarity of thinking can result in an individual conforming to poor thought patterns (Ciladian & Goldstein, p. 608). Hence, why an accountable and salient environment can result in individuals who make independent decisions (Ciladian & Goldstein, p. 607).

However, there are moments when conformity could be required, for example, when there is a need to follow rules and regulations (Smith & Bell, 1994, p. 192). Traditionally, such conformity is thought to be a result of warnings and punishments (Smith & Bell, p. 192). However, the harvesting experiment produced contradictory evidence (Smith & Bell, p. 192). Two experiments were tested, in which excessive harvesting was to be met with punishment (Smith & Bell, pp. 193-193). The results showed social information and conformity to implicit group norms played a larger factor in whether or not the individual followed the rules than did the threat of punishment (Smith & Bell, p. 196-197).

Additionally, as Martin & Hewstone (2001) demonstrated, if the individual had a strong attitude against the incoming message, they were less likely to conform to outside pressure. While, if the attitude was moderate in strength, it increased the chances of conformity (as cited in Ciladian & Goldstein, 2004, p. 607).

Conformity behavior also suffers if the individuals’ self-concept is strong (Ciladian & Goldstein, p. 611). Tying with the notion of self-concept, Walker & Andrade (1996), demonstrated a possible reason why conformity decreases as age is lowered could be due to the lack of concern young children have for peer approval (Walker & Andrade, 1996, p. 369). Also, it was noted that increasing an individuals confidence and intelligence could result in lowering conformity (Walker & Andrade, p. 368).

Additionally, collectivist countries, more so than individualistic countries, were more inclined to conform to groups (Ciladian & Goldstein, 2004, p. 610).

Obedience

Obedience could be seen as the result of authority derived from one’s position in a hierarchy (Ciladian & Goldstein, 2004, p. 595). One of the most famous experiments on obedience is the Milgram experiment. Milgram demonstrated how easily a civilian can be persuaded to give lethal electric shocks to a random person (Slater., et al, 2006, p 1.). However, ethical issues have been a barrier to studying obedience (Weiten & McCann, 2013, p. 772).

The advancement in technology has opened up different avenues to study obedience. Slater., et al (2006) took advantage of this trend by replicating Milgram’s paradigm in a virtual world (Slater., et al, 2006, p. 1). Participants sent “shocks” to a virtual individual every time there was a wrong answer, this virtual individual protested as the “shocks” grew in intensity (Slater., et al, p. 6). The participant’s heart rate and perspiration were measured during the task and as the intensity grew, so did stress indicators in the participant (Slater., et al, p. 7). However, not once did the participant stop even though it was made clear that there would be no punishment for stopping. So, as the participant showed clear signs of distress, he or she continued the experiment. This could point towards obedience to authority (Slater., et al, p. 9). This potentially opens avenues for studying obedience without violating ethical guidelines (Slater., et al, p. 9).

The importance of studying obedience cannot be overstated for one of the consequences of organization obedience in the past has been the murder of innocent people during the Holocaust (Weiten & McCann, 2013, p. 595).

Conclusion

The effects of conformity, compliance, and obedience come with real-world consequences. Salesmen often use techniques that are meant to gain compliance from their targets. Individuals give into explicit or implicit needs to conform in order to get along with others or to gain some kind of advantage. Additionally, obedience without limit can result in horrible tragedies, the kind that was seen in the twentieth century.

Whether it be group factors, individual self-concepts, self-esteem issues, environmental makeup or some emotional cause that leads people to behave in such a manner, it is of importance to understand each phenomenon. Without knowledge, there is a chance a person can be manipulated. This can entail simple matters as purchasing a product that the individual did not want, to changing how an individual thinks, to following orders that lead to horrific consequences.

 

 

 

References

Cialdini, R. B., & Goldstein, N. J. (2004). Social influence: Compliance and conformity. Annual Review of Psychology, 55, 591-622. doi:10.1146/annurev.psych.55.090902.142015

Slater, M., Antley, A., Davison, A., Swapp, D., Guger, C., Barker, C., … Sanchez-Vives, M. V. (2006). A virtual reprise of the Stanley Milgram obedience experiments. PLoS ONE, 1(1), 1-10. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0000039

Smith, J. M., & Bell, P. A. (1994). Conformity as a determinant of behavior in a resource dilemma. The Journal of Social Psychology, 134(2), 191-200. doi 10.1080/00224545.1994.9711382

Walker, M. B., & Andrade, M. G. (1996). Conformity in the Asch task as a function of age. The Journal of Social Psychology, 136(3), 367-373. doi:10.1080/00224545.1996.9714014

Weiten, W., & McCann, D. (2013). Psychology: Themes and variations (3rd Canadian ed.). Toronto, ON: Thomson Nelson.

The Archetype Of The Lover

The Lover is the fourth archetype discussed in the book King, Warrior, Magician, and Lover. When speaking about The Lover, it is not simply just sexual love but a general appetite for life. A lover of life. The Lover energy is exhibited in the vividness, aliveness and the passion with which one lives life. There is a sense of joy that The Lover feels, delight in all sensory experiences.

The Lover is one who is able to be in the world and in one’s own body without shame. They have accepted themselves and are comfortable with who they are. In doing so, The Lover is also empathetic towards others and is open to the collective unconscious. The Lover is open to the aesthetic consciousness which allows him to read others, understand how they feel but this openness comes with a cost, namely, by being so open, The Lover also feels pain and feels it deeply.

The two shadow forms of The Lover are Addicted Lover and the Impotent Lover. The Addicted Lover is someone who is a victim of his own sensitivity. He is lost in addiction and this stops the individual from detaching and assessing their own behavior. This lack of detachment can also result in having boundary issues. The individual lacks boundaries and principles that allow The Lover energy to be used for its proper purpose.

The Impotent Lover, on the other hand, suffers from a flattened affect. This affect is one that causes a lack of enthusiasm, vividness, aliveness towards life. The individual is unable to be passionate and open himself to the sensory experiences which life provides. One consequence of The Impotent Lover can be a chronically depressive state.

The Lover is last of the archetypes. The other three are The King, The Warrior, and The Magician. All of which I have attempted covered previously. The archetypes can be useful in assessing one’s own behavior. The archetypes can act as reminders for what one is missing or lacking. The King can remind one to be in service for others and try to help someone else be a better version of themselves. The Warrior may remind one to act and not wait for life to come to you, rather, through action, one should create the life they wish to have. The Magician can be a reminder of how much growth is possible and how one can gain knowledge to aid their growth. The Lover can remind you to live life in its fullest capacity and not be afraid to experience both the good and the bad sensualities that life can provide you.

The Archetype Of The Magician

The archetype of the King brings order and creativity. The Warrior brings action and clarity. The Magician also has a twofold role: The Magician is the knower and he is the master of technology. By knowing, it is meant that the Magician has an understanding of knowledge that requires special training. He initiates this knowledge through ritual processes, so, like a master and apprentice relationship where the apprentice learns from the master, who has the understanding which the apprentice requires and in doing so, he comes to follow certain patterns and adopt behaviors that will aid that apprentice in gaining special knowledge.

Also, the fact that the Magician has secret knowledge or understanding, he comes to play an important role in society. He can deflate the ego of the King by questioning his decisions and actions. Additionally, in doing so, he can awaken the King’s conscience.

This knowing aspect of the Magician’s energy is theoretical science. While the applied science is the technological mastery. Technological understanding being the practical knowledge that can be imparted onto another which would include how a certain thing works, what are it’s parts, how to fix it if it breaks and so on.

Understanding and applying the Magician’s energy has three main benefits. Firstly, by having knowledge, it can allow an individual to detach and reflect prior to making an important life decision. Secondly, by pursuing knowledge you also come to terms with what you don’t know and what you need to know and thus, this understanding can help you focus in order to improve. Lastly, the Magician energy can bring clarity of thinking which can be combined with the Warrior energy and one can act with clarity.

Like the previous archetypes, The Magician also has shadow forms. His shadow forms are the Manipulator and the Denying “Innocent” One. The Manipulator can withhold information and knowledge which can then allow the individual to maneuver others to his own benefit. For greed or status or other vices, such Manipulator’s can be anyone from teachers to doctors to psychiatrists. While the “Innocent” One is someone who does not take responsibility that comes with the Magician’s energy but wishes to have its rewards. This individual is often lifeless and envious of others for he does not wish to act but just wants the knowledge.